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for May 1-16, 2013

in reverse chronological order

Blog Archives . . . from 2012 to current

THURSDAY MAY 16 - 2013


Work Session

I went over to the meadow this morning to take photos of the conservation work session. It was a very pleasant spring morning, warm and sunny and lots of people had turned up, almost a record I would think. Rachel Moroney from the TCV was present to check on the on the conservation procedures for the insurance renewal. Maurice introduced the session in his usual engaging fashion. I am sure Rachel was impressed with what she saw. The main task was to remove the Crack Willow tree that had fallen across the river south of the S-bend.

Maurice and Rachel discussing safety procedures, etc


A Moorhen is sitting on a nest in the river in front of the old gasholder. We usually have three pairs nesting along the river on Brook Meadow. Has she been on the beer?

Cow Parsley is now looking fine along both side of the main river path through Brook Meadow. False Fox Sedge is out on the Lumley area and Stream Water-crowfoot is flowering in the River Ems, both 2-3 weeks later than usual.

There were several white butterflies fluttering around the meadow. I managed to track one down which was a Green-veined White, though I suspect the others were of the Large or Small varieties. Other butterflies included Holly Blue, Comma and Speckled Wood. Here is a Holly Blue on the Ivy hedge that I took in my garden a when I got home.

Maurice Lillie reports seeing a young Rabbit sitting for a few minutes on the north meadow. Rabbits are not often seen on Brook Meadow and probably originate from the gardens around.

I came across a Slow-worm basking in the sunshine on the main gravel path near the seat. After taking its photo, I ushered it into the undergrowth.


No change on the millponds. The Mute Swan is still sitting on six (?) eggs on the 'litter nest' on the town millpond. On Peter Pond, the Mute Swan was sitting snugly on her nest on the island with her mate in the water nearby. The Coot family with 5 chicks is intact and growing well. The raft appears to have come loose from its anchor and is now parked on the eastern side of the pond. Maybe, this is deliberate by David Gattrell.

A Whitethroat was singing as usual from the bushes in the centre of the northern reedbeds, but there is still no sound of either Reed Warbler or Sedge Warbler.

On Slipper Millpond there is still one remaining Coot chick on the north raft (from the original brood of six), but the south raft where I saw 3 Coot chicks on May 5 is now totally empty. Nick Medina told me he had seen a Great Black-backed Gull on the south raft, so that no doubt explains what happened to those chicks. The Great Black-backed Gull was sitting on her nest on the centre raft.


Chris Cockburn provided the following up date on the seabirds on the Oysterbeds:

"It is beginning to look as if very few/no Common or Sandwich Terns will be nesting on the two islands in the Oysterbeds' lagoon - Black-headed and Mediterranean Gulls seem to have bagged almost all of the suitable space, leaving very little if any room for the later arrivals (including the three pairs of Oystercatchers that have been seen feeding, roosting & copulating but not making nesting attempts).

No Black-headed Gull chicks have yet been seen, but the first hatchlings will probably appear within the next few days although the main hatching will probably be towards the end of next week or later.

The recently imported and graded shingle (100 tonnes at the western end of the NW Bund) has encouragingly attracted some high-tide roosting terns - today, there were eight Little Terns (plus two more on the weathered chalky material west of the import - an area that will be flooded by most of the higher spring tides, hence much sought after by Little Terns!). There are now five likely potential nesting sites for Little Terns (Baker's island, the recharge on South Binness Island, the North Spit, the western end of the NW Bund and the raft on the Deeps at Farlington Marshes. It would be great if Little Terns used all of these sites - even if only a few pairs at some - that would enhance likelihood of at least some productivity!

At least one pair of Common Terns looked as if they were considering nesting on the shingle import. Hopefully, there will soon be terns nesting there and a suitably experienced contractor will have erected a security fence to deter people and animals from accessing the bund.

It was good to see Orange Tip, Green-veined White and Small White butterflies on the 'Mound', which also has a good flowering show of Bluebells, Celandines, Bugles etc (but Milk Thistles seem to be in terminal decline)."



Spring flowers

I have been doing surveys of some of the Emsworth waysides over the past couple of days and I can say for sure that spring flowers are coming out at last.

For the full report with photos go to the waysides web site at . . .


Bullfinch in Garden

Jean and I were sitting having our lunch when I spotted a bird on one of the sunflower heart feeders in the garden. Wow, a male Bullfinch. I grabbed my camera (a spare which I always keep handy) and got a couple of quick shots through the window before it flew off. Fortunately, it returned about an hour later to settle on a bird tray for several minutes, enabling me to get some better photos.

This was only the 4th Bullfinch sighting in our garden near the centre of Emsworth since moving to the present house in 1997; the others (all males) were in Jan 1999, Jun 2000 and July 2008.

Whitethroat nesting

Maurice Lillie told me he had seen a Whitethroat with nesting material near the bramble bushes south of the causeway on Brook Meadow. This is very good news as Whitethroat is one our of three regular summer visitors to Brook Meadow.

Radiant Cow Parsley

Lesley Harris reports that she carried out a bat survey on Brook Meadow on Monday evening with Nik Knight, David Search and Debbie Robinson. They started the walk with a brilliant sunset rainbow over Palmers Road Car park and when it was dark they strolled through the Cow Parsley that lines the main river path through the meadow. Lesley says the flowers were radiant white in the darkness - quite magical. She wonders if they contain some form of ultra violet? I don't know the answer. Does anyone?

TUESDAY MAY 14 - 2013


Wintercress is now in flower on the Seagull Lane patch on Brook Meadow. It has simple upper stem leaves which distinguishes it from Early Wintercress.

Mute Swan nests

The pen was sitting on the 'litter nest' on the town millpond with her mate close by when I passed this morning. Very encouraging. Will these birds confound my expectations? Last egg was laid about May 3, so hatching due June 7 (36 days). The pen was snug on her nest on the Peter Pond island with her mate in the water nearby. Last egg laid Apr 28, hatching due June 3.


There were definitely two Nightingales singing when I was there this afternoon at about 2pm. Both were at the northern end of the lane, one by the open 'ride' to the east and the other near the metal gate to the new farm area.

MONDAY MAY 13- 2013


Andy Brook and his Hollybank Woods colleagues have strimmed the eastern section of the wayside where brambles were threatening to take over. It looks much better and it seems unlikely that too much damage was done to the emerging wild flowers. Marsh Woundwort is the main plant in this area and it does not flower until the summer.

I discovered a number of new plants for the wayside list not previously recorded. I expect to find a lot of new ones as the season progresses as I did not start making the list last year until August. Lilac bush in full blossom in the eastern corner of the site. Goat's-beard, Smooth Meadow-grass and Grey Sedge on the main site. Beaked Hawk's-beard, Sweet Vernal Grass and Black Grass on the New Brighton Road embankment outside the main site.

Black Grass is growing in tufts immediately outside the metal gate on New Brighton Road. All the features seem to fit this identification. It has hairless leaves and long narrow inflorescences over 10cm long, tapering to their tips, and slightly purplish. The spikelets have long awns projecting 5mm beyond the glumes. Black Grass is common in SE England in waste ground and can be a serious arable weed. Flowers May-Aug.

Other plants newly in flower (but not new to the list) include Common Vetch, Bulbous Buttercup, Cut-leaved Crane's-bill, Ribwort Plantain, Bird's-foot Trefoil, Scarlet Pimpernel, Red Clover, Wintercress, Smooth Sow-thistle, Scented Mayweed, Oil-seed Rape, Scented Mayweed, Field Forget-me-not (with tiny flowers), Thyme-leaved Speedwell, Lesser Swine-cress, Cocksfoot, Soft Brome, Yorkshire Fog, False Fox Sedge, Spiked Sedge.

Here is a close-up shot of the Lesser Swine-cress

These sightings bring the total number of plants recorded on this wayside in 2013 so far to 77 from a grand total of 148 for the site as a whole (including the area in front of the large poster).

This attractive hoverfly (Helophilus pendulus) was feeding on a Dandelion flower

A well camouflaged Crab Spider was lurking on one of the Lilac blooms.


I watched two Dunnocks in a pre-copulation display in which the female bird voluntarily exposed her cloaca (genitals) to the male bird who then pecked at the cloaca to remove the sperm from a previous copulation. I have often read about this behaviour but never actually witnessed it before.

The photo shows the female exposing her cloaca to the male.


Rosemary Hampton reported that the Mute Swan on the 'litter nest' on Emsworth Millpond is back to just 6 eggs, having had 7 when she last saw her, and supposedly 9 on May 8, according to neighbours. Rosemary says the heavy winds seem to have blown away all her soft dried grass.

The Coot pair that nested on the floating raft on Peter Pond still have their 5 chicks which are now growing and looking healthy. A Coot sitting on a nest in the reeds a little to the south of the No Fishing sign. I could only see one chick being fed by the parents on the north raft on Slipper Millpond where the Great Black-backed Gull was sitting on its nest on the centre raft. The Mute Swan looked snug on its nest on the Peter Pond island while her mate patrolled Slipper Millpond for intruders.


My first May blossom of the year was out on the Hawthorn bushes along Lillywhite's path wayside. Very late.

Mike Wells had a good view of one of the Peregrines nesting on Chichester Cathedral on Sunday morning (May 12). Mike managed to get this fine image of the bird in flight despite it breaking the local speed limit!

White Bluebells

Kirsteen Titchener noticed some white Bluebells at Stansted this morning. There were only about 5 plants and only in one of the 10 or so large patches of bluebells that Kirsteen walks by most mornings. Blamey, Fitter and Fitter (p.308) note that most large populations of native Bluebells have a few scattered white spikes so it was good that Kirsteen spotted these. Has anyone else seen any. Note the Spanish Bluebell and the hybrids often have a variety of colours including white.


Jean and I were on the Isle of Wight from Wed May 8 to Sun May 12 visiting my son and his family in Cowes. The weather was not good while we were there, but I managed to get to a few of my favourite spots, including Newtown Nature Reserve, Walter's Copse, Northwood Cemetery, plus an interesting new site of Fort Victoria. Two new discoveries for me were Heath Wood-rush (Luzula multiflora ssp. multiflora) and Southern Wood-rush (Luzula forsteri).

For the complete report with photos please go to . . . Isle of Wight


Millpond news

Juliet Walker has looked at the "litter nest" on the town millpond every day, but she has not seen the pen standing up, so she has not been able to count the eggs again. However, I suspect t has remained at six which was the last confirmed count. Juliet is struck at what good housekeepers the pair are, forever adding new bits of rubbish to the nest! She asks where have most of the other swans on the millpond gone? There are only two or three others about most of the time. Are they off on their own nests, or has the cob driven them away?

Electric fishing

Malcolm Phillips watched the Environment Agency conduct their survey of the fish in the River Ems on Brook Meadow by electric fishing, something he has never seen before

They did a stretch from the south bridge to the observation fence, they had a large bucket of fish by the time they finished including a nice Pike, lots of Eels, Bullheads and some young Trout. They said that the river looked in good condition, but thought they should have found more trout.

TUESDAY MAY 7 - 2013


No new developments on the local millponds. The swan on the 'litter nest' on the town millpond seems to be doing her job in tending to eggs, though she has a thankless task in those conditions, with a nest, mostly of scraps of paper and twigs, on bare mud right beneath the bridge where people constantly pass.

The swan on the Peter Pond island also seems to be doing well, she was sitting snugly on the nest when I passed by this morning with her mate on the pond nearby. The Coot family seem to be OK. There is still no sound of Reed Warbler or Sedge Warbler from the reedbeds on the north of Peter Pond.

Over on Slipper Millpond the Great Black-backed Gull was on the nest on the centre raft and the Coots were tending to their two chicks on the north raft.


The Seagull Lane patch, which has been cleared of brambles over the past two years, now has lots of flowers and is a very good nectar source for butterflies and other insects. Several Orange Tips of both sexes were attracted to the flowering Garlic Mustard which is abundant in this area. Garlic Mustard is one of the Orange Tip caterpillar's main feeding plants, the other is Cuckooflower. Malcolm Phillips got a good image of the green mottled underwing of a Orange Tip; it could be a male or female as the upper wing is not shown in the photo.

I got a photo of a Green-veined White also feeding on the Garlic Mustard in this area.

I was particularly pleased to see, albeit a very battered looking, Small Tortoiseshell feeding on a Dandelion flower head on the orchid area of the north meadow. This was my first Small Tortoiseshell of the year of this once common butterfly; I don't think I saw one at all last year.

My first Cranefly of the year was stumbling around in the long grasses.



Pam Phillips and other residents of The Rookery off Lumley Road report hearing a Cuckoo calling loudly early most mornings at about 5am. However, it has not been seen or heard in the area during the day which suggests it may be the Thorney bird moving around.

Roy Ewing and his wife also heard a Cuckoo at 5am this morning, whilst in bed. Roy said it sounded so close it could have been in the garden. Roy lives in Brent Court near Nore Barn Woods so this is unlikely to the be the Thorney bird. So, there is probably another early morning wanderer in the Warblington Farm area.

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Rich Daley recently set up a one-man hide in his back garden and, as he said, has been virtually 'living in it' ever since. He has been getting some good photos including this male Great Spotted Woodpecker. Nice one. We look forward to more!

Common Sorrel

The first Common Sorrel of the year is now out on the Bridge Road Wayside. This is about the same time as last year which makes a change from all the late flowers.

MONDAY MAY 6 - 2013

Water Voles with food

Malcolm Phillips spent a few hours on Brook Meadow today and saw 2 Water Voles just up from the north bridge, the first one was on the west bank feeding and whilst watching this one a second one came out of the east bank. Malcolm watched the latter vole for over an hour as it went backwards and forwards along the bank collecting greens and taking them back in the hole. The vole was certainly working very hard as you can see from Malcolm's photo, almost certainly taking food for youngsters in the burrows.

Song Thrush at nest

Malcolm also saw several of the resident birds, including this Song Thrush at its nest. Malcolm uses a very long lens on his camera which means there was no chance of any disturbance to the nest.

Sparrowhawks in Nore Barn Woods

Chris Berners-Price had a treat today. He was standing under the Sparrowhawk nest in Nore Barn Woods when the male presented a mouse to the female in an aerial ballet before she took it up to the nest. So things look good for this year!

Ashling Wood for Bluebells

Graham Petrie has had some memorable experiences over the past few days. He visited Ashling Wood (on my recommendation ) to see a great display of Bluebells. This is certainly the best place to see them in the local area, though they should be coming through well in Hollybank Woods and Stansted Forest by now. Graham also saw a Roe Deer, Nuthatch and a resident Buzzard living in the middle of the woods.

Pulborough Brooks for Nightingales

Graham stopped off in Marlpit on the way back to see if he could hear the Nightingales, but they were not singing. Sometimes they are silent. However, he did hit the jackpot at Pulborough Brooks where he heard (and saw) three Nightingales all singing openly. Pulborough is certainly the place to visit for Nightingales this year.

Pond Skater

Peter Milinets-Raby sent this superb close-up photo of a Pond Skater, three of which he has dashing around on the surface of his garden pond.

Peter's photo shows the structure of the insect very well with with wings folded across its back and very long legs, the middle pair of which are used for propulsion and the rear pair for steering. The short front legs are used for gripping its prey. It is able to skate on the surface of water thanks to dense pads of hair on the underside and on the ends of four of the legs which traps pockets of air. I tend to find Pond Skaters on the stream that runs behind my house, sometimes up to 100 at a time, though I have not seen any this spring.

SUNDAY MAY 5 - 2013


Work session

I went over to the meadow this morning mainly to take a few photos of the regular conservation work session. The numbers were down a bit on the usual turnout, probably due to the Bank Holiday weekend and the Emsworth Arts Trail which was carrying on today. The main tasks were laying down fresh gravel around the signcases and other vulnerable areas of pathway. They received some very welcome help from three youngsters (Molly, Conna and Harry) who were on the meadow at the time in dragging the heavy bags of gravel.


The birds were in good voice this morning. Spring has definitely sprung as far as they are concerned! I heard 5 Blackcaps, 4 Whitethroats, but surprisingly not a single Chiffchaff. Other songsters included Song Thrush (3 singing), Blackbird, Robin, Wren, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch,


The Black Poplar at the northern edge of the Lumley area is now in leaf and looking very handsome. While I was looking at it a Green Woodpecker landed right at the top and flew off towards Lumley Road. You can't see it on this photo!

All the new Oak saplings on the Seagull Lane patch are looking healthy with fresh brown buds showing and a few early leaves. The one I planted also had a small (unidentified) snail on the stem.

Creeping Buttercups are now out as are the spathes of Lords and Ladies, about 2 weeks later than usual.

The infertile stems of Field Horsetail are showing well at the northern end of the Bramble path in front of the Horse Chestnut saplings. Distant Sedge is now flowering on the Lumley area.

The Seagull Lane patch, where the conservation group cleared the brambles, is now looking very good with a variety of wild flowers showing well, including a patch of Wintercress in bud at the far end of the patch.


While I was on the Seagull Lane patch this morning, a beautiful Speckled Wood butterfly came to rest on a leaf just long enough for me to take its photo. These have just come out in the past week.

I love to watch Bumblebees buzzing around flowers for nectar and pollen. There were two on the Seagull Lane patch today feeding on the White Dead-nettles and Dandelions. One was a big hairy queen with two yellow stripes, probably Buff-tail Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris). The other, judging from its well-filled pollen sacks, was a worker with a ginger thorax which I think could be B. pascuorum.


The Mute Swan 'litter nest' on the town millpond continues to attract a lot of attention from people crossing the bridge into Emsworth. The pen was off the nest when I was there and four eggs were visible but others may have been covered. The most eggs that have been seen is four. Calculating 36 days incubation from the laying of the last egg (May 3), I would estimate hatching would be around 7th June. That is quite a long time for something to go wrong at this very exposed site.

The Mute Swan was off the nest on the Peter Pond island when I passed this morning, but I could see three eggs though others could have been covered. I think the last egg was laid around Apr 28, so hatching should be around 3rd June for this nest, if all goes well. The Coot family with the 5 chicks was looking healthy on the east side of the pond.

The Coots on the north raft still have their 2 remaining chicks. The Coots nesting on the south raft have now produced three chicks. All chicks are sensibly remaining on relative safety of the raft. The Great Black-backed Gulls were on the centre raft as usual. The male bird was struggling with a huge Eel while I was there. How did it manage to catch that?


Eric Eddles has a nice surprise when he walked around Baffins Pond this morning to see a Canada Goose family with six tiny goslings.

Knowing that the Emsworth Ramblers were going over Noar Hill today, Tony Wootton took his camera and got the classic Noar Hill butterfly - Duke of Burgundy.

Cygnets on Langstone Mill Pond

Peter Milinets-Raby was delighted to see the 'first' swim of three new cygnets on Langstone Mill Pond today.

"They were in the nest to start with, poking their heads out from underneath the mother. Then she got up and the male came over and between them they encouraged the three cygnets into the water. The two adults were violently stirring up the water, dunking their heads under and yanking huge lumps of weed to the surface for the three cute cygnets to feed. The male even came over and took some bread and then presented some to the cygnets. A very enchanting sight and it had drawn quite a crowd in the glorious afternoon sunshine."



Malcolm Phillips saw a Water Vole by the north bridge at 10.50am, but there was no sign of the young vole that he saw yesterday.

Link to special page on the Water Voles of Brook Meadow . . . Water Voles

I heard at least three Blackcaps singing strongly when I walked through the meadow this afternoon, so they have definitely arrived. But there was no sight or sound of Whitethroat; I hope they are still here.

Epiphytic growth

Maurice Lillie noted this morning an example of how nature takes any opportunity to survive. His photo of the Crack Willow that has fallen across the river from the north path on Brook Meadow has several different plants growing on and in the cracks of the, still live, tree. These are examples of epiphytic growth, ie when one plant grows on another but is not parasitic on it. Lichens, mosses and ferns growing on trees are also epiphytic.


David Gattrell was hard at work clearing the new eastern channel through the reedbeds to the north of Peter Pond. David is doing such a good job on the pond; he deserves a medal.

One of David's creations was the new floating raft in the centre of Peter Pond on which Coot nested this spring. The Coot family comprising five chicks are now on the pond being tended to by their ever vigilant parents.

I heard the hurried, rather scratchy, but musical song of a Sedge Warbler from the northern reedbeds. This was the first I have heard here this year, though Peter Milinets-Raby did hear one here on Apr 19.

The Mute Swan was off its nest on the Peter Pond island. Maurice Lillie saw the pen (with the pink legs) turning at least three eggs in the nest, a good sign that she is caring well for them.

The Coots on the north raft on Slipper Millpond still have their two chicks which is good news as they lost 4 of the original brood of 6 chicks very quickly, probably to the Great Black-backed Gulls. The gulls were both on the centre raft with one bird sitting on the nest.


Peter Milinets-Raby spent a couple of hours along the Warblington shore this morning from 6:30am. The birds of note were: A pair of Gadwall seen to fly out of the 'Ibis Field' and head off south.

High tide - on the island off Warblington: 55 Dunlin, 1 Bar-tailed Godwit, 3 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Turnstone, 2 Whimbrel, 1 Knot - full summer plumage, 1 Ringed Plover, 6 Grey Plover - summer, female Red Breasted Merganser, 1 Med Gull, 2 Curlew, 6 Oystercatcher. Flying about were 6 Little Terns, 2 to 4+ Common Terns and 4+ Swallows. Very little else - too cold, too windy (through the forecast for the next three days could see some good birds coming in!!!! - lets hope so!)


Malcolm Phillips thought we might like to see an Eastern Kingbird feeding its young, which he took while on holiday in Cuba. .

FRIDAY MAY 3 - 2013



First young Water Vole

Malcolm Phillips had two Water Vole sightings today. The first was just up from the north bridge at 11am (Section A), the second on the north bank almost under the willow over the river (Section A1), but this one looked about half the size of the first one and was probably the first youngster of the year. These were the first Water Vole sightings we have had for about 2 weeks. I assume the voles were spending more time in their burrows tending to their young.

Joys of Brook Meadow

Maurice Lillie had "a wonderful stroll around Brook Meadow this evening with the dogs. What amazing weather after a horrible winter that seemed to go on and on. Not seeing any sky for weeks on end takes its toll. Spring has arrived with a heck of a rush and bird song is incredible as they seem to play catch-up. We saw crows, pigeons, two Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Whitethroat, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Dunnock, gulls, Coots, ducks, Robins, Wren, Great Tits, Blue Tits, Long Tailed Tits, Chaffinch, Blackcap - all in the space of twenty minutes." Here is Maurice's photo of a Carrion Crow, a common resident of Brook Meadow, but surprisingly underecorded photographically.


Peter Milinets-Raby visited Langstone Mill Pond area this morning where he noted a good variety of birds, including some lingering winter visitors, 35 Bar-tailed Godwits and 9 Dunlin. He counted 37 Little Egrets in the trees behind the millpond, all very quiet, no displaying going on, with a possible 29/30 nests. Unusual sightings in this area were 2 male and 2 female Tufted Duck.

'Litter nest' news

Peter came over to Emsworth where he found a Mute Swan sitting on 'litter nest' panting in the heat! From the size of the knob on its bill my guess is that this is the male taking its turn at incubating the eggs. This is a good sign that the pair are trying hard in very difficult circumstances. You never know . . .

Cuckoo on Thorney

Roy Ewing heard the Thorney Cuckoo at 9.30am today in the shore copse, to the west of Thorney Road/Thornham Lane junction. This is probably one of the birds that have been reported here several times over the past couple of weeks.

River Ems diversion

Roy Ewing informs me that the Environment Agency have diverted the flow from the eastern arm of the River Ems that goes alongside Mill Lane, north of the A27, into the western arm that passes through the fields behind Westbourne Avenue. He is not sure whether it is temporary or not or why it was done. Does anyone know anything about this?

Small Tortoiseshell in garden

Patrick Murphy had a rare visitor to his North Emsworth garden today - a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly. Lucky chap. He thought it looked a bit jaded, but it does not look too bad to me. It would be one which hibernated over the winter.

Stansted Bluebells

Kirsteen Titchener was in Stansted Forest which she says was absolutely beautiful in the early in the morning. She has been waiting for the Bluebells to flower, they're nearly in full bloom, but still not quite. The same applies to those in Hollybank Woods. However, I can really recommend the display in Ashling Wood at West Stoke which is superb.

Pagham Harbour

Janet Hider was at Pagham Harbour and thought folk might like to know that the small visitor centre at Sidlesham has been closed for updating and should re-open on May 17th. (Toilets are still available).


Chris Cockburn sends the following news update from the Oysterbeds


Lots of Black-Headed Gulls are now on nests on the two islands in the Oysterbeds lagoon; but some have already had to re-nest following tidal flooding! Unlike the five harbour islands and the harbour's beaches, the two lagoon islands do not have tidal strandlines and, therefore, the birds have no useful indications for apparently safe nesting areas.

In a first for the site, Mediterranean gulls are nesting on the East Island (perhaps it should be called Banana Island, given its shape in plan-view). Mediterranean gulls seem to prefer well-vegetated nesting sites and this year East Island does have some perennial vegetation (Sea Couch and Sea Beet) - despite my hope that vegetation clearance would happen. So, watch out for grey chicks as well as the brown black-headed gull chicks.


Sandwich, Common and Little Terns have been roosting on the Stoke Bay shingle spit at high tide and at least two pairs of common terns & one pair of Sandwich terns have briefly roosted on East Island.

100 tons of graded shingle has been ferried out and graded on the western end of a bund (the "NW Bund" that forms the northern edge of the lagoon) - it is hoped that Little Terns will nest there (they have used that area in past years). The imported shingle might also attract nesting Oystercatchers and ringed plovers.

Four little tern decoys have been placed on a vegetation-cleared area of the "North Spit" (an 'island' north east of the lagoon); yet another potential little tern site.

It's fingers-crossed that Bob Chapman's designed Little-Tern raft will prove successful (it will be placed in the Deeps at Farlington Marshes LNR, which is managed by the Hampshire & IoW Wildlife Trust).

There are now five potential Little Tern nesting sites in the harbour - if all of them are used, even if only by a few birds, there is a much better chance of at least some productivity instead of total failure when all of the birds nest at the same location and predation or tidal flooding occurs.

RSPB Islands

The gull-nesting season on the harbour islands (South Binness, Round Nap & Baker's Islands) has only just started, one of the latest starts ever and possibly because of frequent presence of large raptors. Adult female and adult male Peregrines have been observed roosting on Round Nap Island and today there were two major disturbances (early this afternoon, a Buzzard was using the thermals rising from South Binness and this evening, most of the gulls on South Binness abandoned their nests from at least 19:30 to 20:20, possibly because a raptor was enjoying a meal on the beach).

The high tide roosts at Stoke Bay are worth watching; recently summer-plumage Dunlins, Sanderlings, Knot, Bar-Tailed Godwit and Greenshank have been recorded.

1. BBC Countryfile will be showing a snippet about the Oysterbeds on Sun 12 May.

2. It would be really appreciated if some of you could spare some of your valuable free time to help by volunteering with RSPB by greeting visitors at the Oysterbeds. Alison, Emma and Ian - I do hope that you can help again.


Bird Scarcity

Many correspondents on Hoslist have been commenting on the scarcity of common birds this spring. Richard Broughton cites two main causes. Firstly, most species had a terrible breeding season in 2012 due to the bad summer weather. This was picked up in BTO surveys of productivity: Secondly, the late spring has quietened down a lot of birds and there is not much singing to be heard. The lack of insect food means they might be concentrating on feeding more than singing.



10:30 - 11:30 - I had a walk around the Marlpit Lane area this morning, mainly on the listen for Nightingales and Turtle Doves.

Two Nightingales were singing loudly from the bushes to the east of the lane about 200 metres north of the amenity tip. They were remarkably close together, not more than 20 metres apart. I happened to meet Dave Mead who I had not seen for a few years, along the footpath from the lane. He said he had seen a Turtle Dove a couple of days ago on the site near the gate to the forestry area. While we were talking what could have been a third Nightingale suddenly started singing from the bushes alongside the footpath. I walked back along the footpath north of the dog kennels, where I used to hear Willow Warbler, but there was no sound today. I was also surprised not to hear any Whitethroats which used to be very common on this site. Those were the days when Lapwing nested here, but not for many years now.

I had my first Speckled Wood of the year. A male Orange Tip was patrolling the footpath through the Marlpit Lane site.

Along the footpath by the kennels, I found a good growth of Common Dog-violets with overlapping petals and pale notched spurs. Also, my first Germander Speedwell of the year with two rows of hairs on opposite sides of the stem.


Mute Swan news

Juliet Walker keeps a close eye on the 'litter nest' on Emsworth Millpond and writes to say the swan is now sitting on 6 eggs. She says it now has some nice hay-like, soft bedding material, possibly thrown there by a kind person or collected by the male swan?

Speckled Wood

I have been waiting for Speckled Wood butterflies to appear on Brook Meadow and today Malcolm Phillips got the first photo of one.

Tony Browne reported he had seen two unidentified butterflies 'dancing in shade over the path west of the south bridge' which were almost certainly Speckled Woods. That is the area they really love and can they dance!

Keel-fruited Cornsalad

Keel-fruited Cornsalad is out again, as in the previous three years, on the pavement in Bridge Road just north of my house. Last year it was out 2 weeks earlier than this on April 19.

Initially I referred to it as Common Cornsalad, until I heard from Ralph Hollins that Eric Clement told him that the default Cornsalad species here in Hampshire is V. carinata (ie Keel-fruited Cornsalad) and not V. locusta (Common Cornsalad). Keel-fruited Cornsalad is so-called after its deeply grooved and keeled fruits. I checked the seeds last year to confirm the plant as Keel-fruited Cornsalad.

Parsley Piert

I went to the Warblington Underpass wayside to look for the Parsley Piert that Ralph Hollins told me he had found on the site. I had no problem finding the plants with their very parsley-looking leaves, low growing among some mosses at the far end of the wayside in front of the broken fence.

The flowers are tiny (less than 2mm) in dense clusters in leaf axils, surrounded by cups formed by leaf stipules. I managed to separate one out for a microscope photo which still hard to see. It shows what I think is the stamen in the centre of the green petals.

New Atlas: A winter- or (less frequently) spring-germinating annual of dry, basic to somewhat acidic soils in arable fields, bare patches in grassland and lawns, heaths and woodland rides, open ground in rough and waste places, gravel-pits and along railways. Native. European Temperate element; widely naturalised outside its native range.

Other flowers

Other flowers on the wayside included Dove's-foot Cranesbill, Honesty, Common Nettle, Field Madder (on the north edge of the kerb to the Underpass), Bulbous Buttercup (on north embankment), Spotted Medick, Common Mouse-ear, Hairy Bittercress, Cleavers (first of the year), Cow Parsley, Field Wood-rush (by the broken fence), Cocksfoot, Barren Brome (against the wall of the Underpass entrance), Soft Brome (where the grass is uncut on the Havant Road verge).

Here is the tiny flower of Cleavers

Bar-headed Geese

As for the origin of the Bar-headed Geese seen in Fishbourne Channel yesterday by Roy Hay, Ralph Hollins suggests they could have come from a small flock that was kept at the Trout Fishing lakes beside the Hambrook Stream on Priors Leaze Lane at SU781059. They occasionally flew off to appear at other local sites.


Willow Warbler or what?

Within the space of 10 minutes this morning, Tony Wootton saw three birds in the Cherry Plum tree in the garden of Gooseberry Cottage. They were a male Blackcap, a Whitethroat and a third bird which Tony thought could be a Willow Warbler rather than a Chiffchaff. He heard no song. His photos show a bold supercillium, a light belly, pale legs (in one photo) and fairly long wings. I agree Willow Warbler is more likely than Chiffchaff, but I would have expected a lighter, more yellow, plumage in a Willow Warbler than the bird in Tony's photos. Maybe, it is something else, a rare bird, even?

Here is the photo showing the pale legs and belly

The bold supercilium shows well in this photo

and with wings like that! Any ideas?


Malcolm Phillips, fresh from holiday in Cuba, provides a good photo of what I am fairly sure is a Chiffchaff taken today on Brook Meadow. It is interesting to compare it with Tony's bird, which has a bolder supercilium and an overall sleeker appearance.

Godwit correction

Anne de Potier has also been watching the Black-tailed Godwits in 'Texaco Bay' on North Hayling and says the colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwit that I reported in yesterday's blog entry as W+YG was in fact L+YG. She had seen it before clearly. I noted at the time that the white ring on the left leg looked dirty and could be lime and so it was. Looking through my Godwit colour-ringed records I have only one other sighting for this bird which was by Trevor Carpenter at Farlington Marshes on 08-Feb-09. Here is Trevor's good image of the bird. That lime ring does look like a dirty white one.

Anne said there were another 26 Black-tailed Godwits on the north shore at Langstone yesterday (including L+GN), plus a couple of dozen Bar-tailed Godwits. Anne also said that Whimbrel I got on the 'Texaco Bay' shore has been around for a while.

Mute Swan news

Regarding the 'litter nest' on the town millpond, Juliet Walker noticed this afternoon that the water has receded and the nest is more or less high and dry! She asks, 'Is that a good or bad thing?' I think it is a bad thing since it makes access to the nest so much easier and the eggs more vulnerable - e.g. to foxes and even humans. However, if the water level goes too high then the nest will be swamped which is even worse. I think someone (not sure who) asked the Environment Agency to control the millpond sluice so that the water level would remain fairly low for the benefit of the nest. You can't win!


Our regular Fishbourne correspondent, Roy Hay got a couple of good images today.

A lovely fresh Small Tortoiseshell taken on a path on Fishbourne Meadows.

A pair of Bar-headed Geese at the end of Fishbourne creek. I wonder where they could have come from?

For earlier observations go to . . April 26-30